2013 Akin Gump Pro Bono Awards Spotlight Great Lawyer and Non-Lawyer Work

(Washington, D.C.) – Featuring honorees from across its domestic offices and presided over by firm chairperson Kim Koopersmith and pro bono partner Steven Schulman, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP’s annual Pro Bono Awards were recently held across the firm.

Akin Gump holds firmwide and office Pro Bono Award ceremonies to recognize the work being done by attorneys and staff on behalf of pro bono clients.  In the 2013 firmwide awards, attorney and office honorees in seven categories earned recognition:

Office of the Year:  Los Angeles

In 2012, 81 percent of Akin Gump’s L.A. attorneys served pro bono clients, averaging more than 123 hours per attorney (up from 97 hours per attorney in 2011).  In addition to challenging the redistricting of Koreatown by the L.A. City Council and representing a photographer harassed by the LAPD for taking pictures of allegedly sensitive public buildings, the office’s signature achievement was the successful settlement of a housing rights case brought against the cities of Palmdale and Lancaster on behalf of federal Section 8 voucher holders who had been subjected to systematic discrimination and harassment.

Section of the Year:  Dallas Litigation

Nearly every associate in the Dallas litigation group went to trial in a pro bono matter in 2012, as the team brought three major cases to conclusion last year.  One case (which won Litigation Team of the Year – see below) successfully challenged a Dallas ordinance restricting the ability of a church to feed the homeless.  The two other cases involved prisoners who had been abused while incarcerated.  Dallas litigators averaged 240 pro bono hours in 2012, with 95 percent of lawyers in the group participating in the pro bono practice.

Litigation Team of the Year:  Big Heart Ministries v. City of Dallas - Scott Barnard, Andrew Newman, Lizzie Scott, John Capehart, Diane Streat

In March 2013, a Texas District Court permanently enjoined the city of Dallas from enforcing a controversial city ordinance that regulated sharing food with the city’s homeless population, finding that the ordinance violated the Texas Religious Freedom and Restoration Act. The case was filed in January of 2007 by several plaintiffs, including Big Heart Ministries, that serve food and minister to the homeless population of Dallas.  The four-day bench trial took place in June 2012. 

Transactional Team of the Year:  Junior Blind/Hatlen Merger - Ken Alderfer, Justin Radell, Ira Rosenblatt, Mark Curiel, Michael Gerald, Robin Schachter, Joanna Kong

Longtime Akin Gump pro bono client Junior Blind of America, a Los Angeles-based adult rehabilitation program, acquired San Francisco’s The Hatlen Center for the Blind in a deal that closed on March 29, 2013. 

Associate of the Year:  Katherine Scully, NY Litigation

Katherine Scully scored a number of significant pro bono victories, including representation of a long-term U.S. permanent resident seeking cancellation of his deportation, collaboration with Sanctuary for Families on a trafficking project (including successfully convincing a court to expunge the criminal record of a woman victimized by sex trafficking and lobbying the New York State Assembly to modify criminal laws affecting victims of sex trafficking) and participation in a bankruptcy proceeding involving a former Somali defense minister who is trying to avoid a $21 million judgment in a human rights litigation.

Counsel of the Year:  Jenny Walters, Dallas Litigation

Jenny Walters’ advocated for Texas American Indian Heritage Day, a matter she developed herself and one that paid off when Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed the bill into law in May.  She also played leadership roles in a federal civil rights trial on behalf of a prisoner subjected to abuse while in confinement and in the successful defense of Planned Parenthood of the Gulf Coast in a politically motivated whistleblower case.

Partner of the Year:  Ron Goldberg, LA Corporate

In 2012, Ron Goldberg originated the firm’s representation of Global Partnerships, a Seattle-based impact investor whose mission is to expand opportunity for people living in poverty in Latin America. GP that operates through investment in local “partners” in four principal areas:  health care, rural livelihoods (helping farmers improve productive capacity), microcredit and green technology.  In addition to handling numerous secured and unsecured lending transactions for GP, he has involved lawyers firmwide in GP’s work on a macro and micro level and assisted GP in negotiating complex framework agreements with a number of its institutional and multilateral investors, including the Inter-American Development Bank, OPIC and FMO.

Additionally, the inaugural Diane Streat Award for non-lawyer pro bono achievement was given to paralegal Adria Hicks of the Supreme Court and appellate practice.  The award honors the memory of Diane Streat, a Dallas paralegal who died in March 2013 and who was a committed participant in pro bono work in her community and at the firm throughout her 25 years here. The late Ms. Streat had brought the matter of feeding Dallas’ homeless (see above) to the firm and worked tirelessly for that victory.

Tax partner Howard Jacobson was inducted into the Pro Bono & Public Interest Hall of Fame in recognition of his generous contributions of his tax expertise to the formation of charitable organizations, from disaster relief entities to local and national assistance programs.  He has also served as the long-time outside GC for the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.

Founded in 1945, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP is a leading international law firm with more than 850 attorneys in offices throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

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